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Gheranda Samhita 

The Original Sanskrit 

An English Translation 

James Mallinson 

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Gheranda Samhita 

Our Books 

Bhagavad Gita 

Gheranda Samhita 

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 

Shiva Samhita 


Gheranda Samhita 

The Original Sanskrit 

An English Translation 

James Mallinson 

An important message to our readers: 

The asanas in this book should not be attempted without the supervision of an 
experienced teacher or prior experience. Many of the other practices should 
not be attempted at all. The ideas expressed in this book should not be used to 
diagnose, prescribe, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, illness, or individual 
health problem. Consult your health care practitioner for individual health 
care. LLC shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, 
special, consequential, or punitive damages resulting from the use of this book., PO Box 569, Woodstock NY 12498-0569 USA 

Copyright ©2004 James Mallinson. All rights reserved and Read the Originals are trademarks LLC 

Printed on acid-free paper 

First edition 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data. 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. 

Publisher's Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Mallinson, James. 

The Gheranda Samhita: the original Sanskrit / and an English translation [by] 
James Mallinson. 

Woodstock, NY :, 2004. 

xvi, [128] p. : ill. ; cm. 

Includes Sanskrit and English. 
ISBN 0-9716466-2-7 (hardcover) 
ISBN 0-9716466-3-5 (paperback) 

1. Hatha Yoga. 2. Kundalini. I. Title. II. Mallinson, James, 1970-, tr. 
RA781.7.G43 2004 
613.7'046— dc21 2004112200 

Loretta made this whole deal possible. 

For Sri Ram Balak Das Ji Yogiraj 


Introduction ix 

Purification 1 

Asanas 16 

Mudras 60 

Pratyahara 86 

Pranayama 89 

Dhyana 113 

Samadhi 119 

Contributors 127 



Ihe book you are about to read, a manual of Yoga taught by 
Gheranda to Chanda, is the most encyclopedic of all the root 
texts of Hatha Yoga. At the beginning of the book, Chanda 
asks Gheranda to tell him about the Yoga of the body, which 
is the cause of knowledge of the Ultimate Reality. Gheranda 
assents and the book is thus called the Gheranda Samhita, or 
"The Collection [of Verses] of Gheranda." 

It sets itself apart from other books on Hatha Yoga in 
two notable ways. Firstly, it calls its Yoga "ghata Yoga" or 
"ghatastha Yoga" and not Hatha Yoga. The usual meaning 
of ghata is "pot," but here it refers to the body, or rather 
the person, since the techniques taught by Gheranda work 
on both the body and the mind. Secondly, it is unique in 
teaching a sevenfold path to perfection of the person. A few 
Hatha Yoga texts replicate Patanjali's classical description of 
Yoga as ashtanga, or "eight limbed," but there are numerous 
other classifications. For example, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika's 
four chapters correspond to the four stages of its Yoga, while 
the Goraksha Samhita, echoing several earlier Tantric texts, 
describes its Yoga as six limbed. 



The seven chapters correspond to the seven means 
of perfecting the person. Each chapter teaches a group 
of techniques that, when mastered, will lead to one of 
the seven means listed in verse 1.9. The first chapter 
describes six types of cleansing techniques by which puri- 
fication, the first means to perfecting the person, can be 
achieved. The second chapter describes thirty-two asanas 
by which strength, the second means, is attained. In the 
third chapter Gheranda teaches twenty- five mudras, which 
lead to steadiness, the third means. The fourth chapter 
describes five techniques for pratyahara, which brings 
about calmness, the fourth means. The fifth chapter starts 
with instructions on where the yogi should live, what he 
or she should eat, and at what time of year yogic practice 
should be started. It then lists ten kinds of pranayama, the 
practice of which leads to lightness, the fifth means. The 
sixth chapter describes three types of dhyana, using which 
the yogi can achieve realization of the self, the sixth means. 
Finally, in the seventh chapter, Gheranda teaches six types 
of samadhi, which lead to abstraction, the ultimate means 
of perfecting the person. 1 

Like the other root texts of Hatha Yoga, the Gheranda 
Samhita does not concern itself with yama and niyama, the 
restraints and observances that make up the first two limbs 
of classical Yoga. It is unique in devoting an entire chapter 

'In verse 7.6, it is said that Raja Yoga is of six types. Many commentators equate 
Raja Yoga with the classical Yoga of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, but in texts on Hatha 
Yoga it means samadhi, rather than a separate type of Yoga. 

Introduction xi 

to bodily purification and in the number of purificatory 
practices it describes. The chapters on asanas and mudras 
are similarly unparalleled in the number of practices taught. 
The difference between asanas and mudras is not made clear 
by Gheranda — several of the mudras seem to be no more 
than asanas. We are told in the first chapter that asanas 
lead to strength and mudras to steadiness. In other texts, 
however, the purpose of mudras is said to be the awakening 
of Kundalini. In five of the twenty- five mudras listed this 
aim is made explicit, but awakening of the Goddess is also 
given as one of the fruits of pranayama in verse 5.57. 

A further unique aspect of this book lies in its position- 
ing of the chapter on pratyahara before that on pranayama. 
In the classical system, the last six limbs are successively 
more subtle, moving from the physical realm to the mental. 
Pranayama is, of course, a more physical practice than pra- 
tyahara, but here the Bhramari pranayama is said to lead to 
samadhi; indeed, it is one of the six varieties of Raja Yoga or 
samadhi given in the final chapter. This may account for the 
position of the chapter on pranayama. Most of the rest of the 
chapter is similar to other texts, apart from the teaching of 
the Ajapa Gayatri, the mantra constantly but involuntarily 
repeated by all living beings. The sounds of the in- and out- 
breaths are said to be sa and ham, whose implicit combina- 
tion is the Vedantic dictum so'ham, "I am that." 

The chapter on dhyana teaches three successively more 
subtle visualizations, starting with a gross dhyana of the 
yogi's guru on a beautiful island, followed by a luminous 
dhyana, visualization of a light between the eyebrows, and a 

xii Introduction 

subtle dhyana, visualization of Kundalini. In the final chapter 
Gheranda teaches six very different ways to samadhi. Three 
mudras, Shambhavi, Khechari, and Yoni, lead to three 
types of samadhi: dhyana, bliss through rasa ("taste" or 
"sensation"), and laya (resorption into the Ultimate Reality 
by means of Kundalini's rise up the Sushumna, or central 
channel). Bhramari pranayama, as noted above, leads to 
samadhi through nada, the inner sound. The Murccha, 
or "trance" pranayama also leads to samadhi. Finally, we 
are told that samadhi can arise through bhakti, "devotion," 
and this is another feature that sets this book apart from all 
other texts on Hatha Yoga. 

Nothing is known about Gheranda and Chanda. The 
name Gheranda is not found anywhere else in Sanskrit lit- 
erature. Like many other works on Hatha Yoga, the work is 
framed as a dialogue, suggesting that it has been overheard 
and then written down. Thus the identity of the author (or 
whoever overheard Gheranda) is not revealed. Chanda's 
full name, Chandakapali, means "fierce skullbearer." The 
epithet kapali, "skullbearer," immediately brings to mind 
the sect of the Kapalikas, skull-bearing followers of Shiva 
infamous for antinomian practices. Kapali and Kapalika 
are both mentioned as past masters of Hatha Yoga in the 
list given in verses 1.4-8 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. (In 
fact, some manuscripts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika prefix 
the name Kapali with Chanda, rather than Khanda, the 
more common reading.) However, as we shall see below, the 
practices taught in this book are tame compared to some of 
those taught in other works on Hatha Yoga, and Gheranda 

Introduction xiii 

appears to have been a follower of Vishnu, so we cannot 
claim Kapalika origins for the text. Perhaps Chanda's 
epithet is simply a way of establishing a connection between 
the text and the lineage of the Mahasiddhas mentioned in 
the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. 

There are also no records of the place and date of com- 
position of the text, but there are indications that it is a 
relatively late work on Hatha Yoga from northeast India. 
The majority of its manuscripts are found in the north and 
east of India, and, of those which are dated, the oldest was 
copied in Bengal in 1802 c.e. As far as I am aware, it was 
never cited by medieval commentators in their works on 
Hatha Yoga. Doctrinal discontinuities also set it apart from 
the rest of the Hatha Yogic corpus. Tantric influences have 
been toned down considerably. See, for example, the descrip- 
tion of Vajrolimudra in verse 3.39: in all other manuals of 
Hatha Yoga this name is given to a technique in which the 
yogi or yogini resorbs commingled sexual fluids through 
the urethra; here it is a simple physical posture. The author 
attributes the teachings of Hatha Yoga to Shiva, but verses 
5.77 and 7.18 suggest that he was a devotee of Vishnu. Fur- 
thermore, several verses indicate that the text was compiled 
by a vedantin, in particular verse 7.4: "I am Brahman and 
nothing else. I am Brahman alone and do not suffer. My 
form is truth, consciousness, and bliss. I am eternally free. 
I abide in my own nature." 2 

2 Despite the author's sectarian affiliation, he has no particular doctrinal axe to 
grind and often tells the aspiring yogi to fill in the details of his visualizations 
and practices in the manner instructed by his guru. 

xiv Introduction 

The early texts of Hatha Yoga showed no trace of 
Vedanta; their doctrinal framework was Tantric. As Hatha 
Yoga and its proponents, the Nathas, gained in popular- 
ity and patronage, the religious orthodox, amongst whom 
Vedanta had become the predominant ideology, had to sit 
up and take notice. As they had done with other heterodox 
movements that threatened their hegemony (e.g., renunci- 
ation and vegetarianism) they claimed Hatha Yoga as their 
own. This process culminated in the eighteenth century 
with the compilation of several new Upanishads and the 
rewriting of some older ones; these are now known collec- 
tively as the Yoga Upanishads. The unknown compiler(s) 
used verses from established works on Hatha Yoga to create 
the texts. The Vedantic and Vaishnava leanings in this book, 
combined with its use of verses from established works on 
Hatha Yoga, suggest that it probably resulted from a similar 
process. In the light of this, as well as the fact that errors in 
the manuscript of 1802 c.E. imply an established manuscript 
tradition, the absence of citations in seventeenth- century 
commentaries, and the location of most of its manuscripts 
in Bengal, we may hazard a guess that the Gheranda Samhita 
was composed in Bengal around 1700 c.E. 

The Sanskrit text presented here is based on the edition 
of Swami Digambarji and Dr. M. L. Gharote, first published 
at Lonavala, Maharashtra, in 1978, for which they collated 
fourteen manuscripts and five printed books, including the 
Adyar Library edition of 1933, which formed the foundation 
of their edition. The best known edition of the text is that 
of Chandra Vasu, which was first published in 1915. It was 

Introduction xv 

based on two earlier Bengali editions which appear to have 
relied on a very small number of manuscripts. The Adyar 
Library edition is much more thorough and omits several 
spurious verses found in Vasu's edition. I consulted three 
manuscripts (two in the library in Jodhpur's Mehrangarh 
Fort and one in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) that were not 
collated for the Lonavala edition, but they were very similar 
to manuscripts that had been used so I decided that there 
was no point in editing the text myself. I have made emen- 
dations or adopted alternative readings in a few places, but 
in general the text is the same as the Lonavala edition. 3 The 
Sanskrit is of the variety that medieval commentators on 
Tantric and Yogic works generously called "aisha," which 
literally means "coming from Shiva." In other words, it is 
often ungrammatical. 

Some verses have been borrowed from other works, 
in particular the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Goraksha 
Samhita. The section on the five dharanas (elemental 
visualizations) in verses 3.59-63 sheds light on the text's 
composition and development. It has clearly been taken 
directly from the Goraksha Samhita, verses 155-59, but is 
incoherent and ungrammatical in all the Gheranda Samhita 
manuscripts. In the Goraksha Samhita each element has a 

'These critical editions are mentioned in the introduction and footnotes. The 
first work has been referred to as the Goraksha Samhita. 
Nowotny, Fausta. Das Goraksasataka. Dokumente der Geistesgeschichte 3. Koln: 

K. A. Nowotny, 1976. 
Digambarji, Swami, and Dr. M. L. Gharote, eds. Gherandsamhita. Lonavala: Kaival- 

yadhama Srlman Madhav Yoga Mandir Samiti, 1978. 
Mallik, Kalyani. The Siddhasiddhantapaddhati and Other Works of Natha Yogrs. 

Poona: Oriental Book House, 1954. 

xvi Introduction 

color, a shape, a location in the body, and a mantra, but 
these are confused and omitted in the Gheranda Samhita. 
In verse 3.62, for example, the wind element is said to be 
black, smoky, and white, while in the Goraksha Samhita it 
is just black. I have somewhat boldly decided to adopt the 
readings of the Goraksha Samhita for the entire passage. 
That all the Gheranda Samhita manuscripts present a 
similarly incoherent description of the dharanas is surpris- 
ing and points to two possible scenarios. Either they are 
descended from a single flawed manuscript or the compiler 
of the Gheranda Samhita was using a flawed manuscript of 
the Goraksha Samhita to write the text. The first hypothe- 
sis requires a lengthy and improbably irregular manuscript 
tradition predating the earliest extant manuscript, which, 
in the absence of external evidence for the text's existence 
prior to 1802 c.E., is unlikely. I am thus inclined to believe 
the second hypothesis. 

In translating, I have tried to be as literal as possible 
without sacrificing readability. I have sought not to add 
anything to what is found in the Sanskrit text — commen- 
tary and elucidation are for the practitioner's guru. Thus 
where the instructions for a practice are ambiguous, they 
have been left that way. The photographs of the asanas and 
mudras draw from the descriptions in the text. In a few 
instances those descriptions do not provide all the informa- 
tion necessary to be sure of the correct posture. For those 
cases I have relied on current practice and common sense 
to fill in the gaps. 

Chapter Three 


h^ih^i ^ftg^r 3fm^ sm^FJi i 
qe5^t *t^ff^ i^i%^§r #stft ii i 
fan<Od^<0 4)[h4^1c^ ^iPrt^icJdl i 

dlsSHu H|u^c£)h^,| wMt mRTW II 2 
3#^ft Mltel-fl 3^ HTFTlft ^T tpffrpft I 

Mahamudra, Nabhomudra, Uddiyana, Jalandhara, 
Mulabandha, Mahabandha, Mahavedha, and Khechari; 
Viparitakarani, Yoni, Vajroli, Shaktichalani, Tadagi, 
Mandukimudra, Shambhavi, the five dharanas, Ashvini, 
Pashini, Kaki, Matangi, and Bhujangini: these twenty-five 
mudras grant success in this world to yogis. 

MHHci c||HJ|c^ Wfm% dcWHd: I 
^I^MMI< ^TFtf^T «b^MWM<l^lc4: II 4 

T^^cfa Wrft H^IHdl fd J l<ild II 5 



Firmly press the anus onto the left ankle, extend the right 
foot, hold the toes with the hands, contract the throat, 
and look between the eyebrows. Inhaling repeatedly, fill 
yourself completely with air. This is called Mahamudra. 

effort qforf % ^Hl^ PiclK^rlJ 

HI^pH4*1 j II3T H^rJjyUISRTr^ II 6 

It can cure wrinkles and gray hair, old age and death, 
consumptive cough, constipation, disorders of the spleen, 
decrepitude, and fever. By mastering Mahamudra, the 
yogi can get rid of all diseases. 

^T^r ^qT 4) Phi' ^hiRM) ii i 

Wherever the yogi may be, he should always, in every- 
thing he does, be sure to keep the tongue turned upwards 
and constantly hold the breath. This is Nabhomudra, the 
destroyer of diseases for yogis. 

3?^ qf^Ft cTH ^T*l^ rT «bK^ I 
3fH 3^ ^fHI<f^^T^f q^RpFT: I 
d^H ^# sp^t HcMHIcH^'O II 8 

62 ^ 

Draw the abdomen backwards above the navel so that the 
great bird flies unceasingly upwards. This is Uddiyana- 
bandha, a lion against the elephant of death. 

This Uddiyana sets itself apart from all bandhas: when 
Uddiyana is practiced, liberation arises spontaneously. 

^ic^^rt^t^t jprtsr ^n^rfH) n 10 

Contract the throat and put the chin on the chest. When 
Jalandharabandha is performed, the sixteen adharas are 
restrained. 1 The great Jalandhara mudra brings about 
death's downfall. 

fagrT ^TTe5^Rt «F^t 4) Phi fafcr^ : i 

^UHWH«^lt f| *T f^t ^TR WT: II n 

A perfected Jalandharabandha bestows success upon yogis. 
He who practices it for six months is an adept. In this 
there is no doubt. 

'A bandha (lock) is a type of mudra. The sixteen adharas (literally "supports" 
or "substrates") are at various locations within the body. They are listed in the 
Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, verses 2.10-25. 

Mudras 63 

H^IH^I - Mahamudra 

64 ^r 

d^)i|M«s|^ - Uddiyanabandha 

Mudras 65 

^TTo5^R^st & qpjspsr - Jalandharabandha & Mulabandha 

66 q^r 

MlMlHI <=HHHI<^M 4)fHHI^^^-dd: I 

The wise yogi should apply pressure to the perineum 
with the heel of the left foot and carefully push the navel 
plexus against the spine. 

^RTfsRTflFft TCT *Te5sRTt ftrr^ || 13 

He should tightly press the penis with the right heel. This 
mudra destroys decrepitude and is called Mulabandha. 

^OT^T ?Ts|c*? Wft&l *T^rT: Spft: II 14 

With the ankle of his left foot the wise yogi should block 
the anus, and with the right foot he should carefully press 
down on the left ankle. 

3H%£llc^cMlM| 4lfHH|cfc^^: I 
3nc^q^ ^K^|U| T^I^^t f^Ft II 15 

He should slowly move his heel about, gently contract the 
perineum, and hold the breath in Jalandharabandha. This 
is called Mahabandha. 

T^TsF^T: qrt W^\ >*UIH*UHI*H: I 

Mudras 67 

Mahabandha is a great bandha: it destroys decrepitude 
and death, and by its grace the yogi can achieve whatever 
he wants. 

^spS-H^N-^ *^T%ST f^HT FT^TT II 17 

Mulabandha and Mahabandha without Mahavedha are like 
the beauty, youth, and charm of a woman without a man. 

1^]%^: ^Hl^ldl 41 PHI fafe<H°l»: II is 

Assume Mahabandha and hold the breath while applying 
Uddiyanabandha. This is called Mahavedha. It bestows 
success upon yogis. 

rjp^ c^ *R?T *T 4Mt 4l J lfa-dH: II 19 

The yogi who every day practices Mahabandha and 
Mulabandha combined with Mahavedha is the best of 
Yoga experts. 

JnM41^: VmFft %^ts^ 4tfWT%: II 20 

68 q^r 

He has no fear of death and does not become decrepit. This 
Mahavedha is to be kept secret by the masters of Yoga. 

<I^H<=l*TldH c%^%W ^^ II 21 

The yogi should regularly cut the tendon below the 
tongue and move the tongue about. He should milk it 
with fresh butter and pull it with iron tongs. 

TTcT f^t S*THWIrtP^I ^r#rf sPH I 
^l<=lfi^^fM^r cRJ t*T^lt>T #^tt II 22 

By regular practice in this way, the tongue becomes long. 
When it reaches between the eyebrows, Khechari 
is perfected. 

T*HT dlcJH^ cT 3T%: 3T%: M^d I 
cbMlrtcb^ fafT ^t%T fclM J)d J ll I 

Gently insert the tongue into the base of the palate. 
When the tongue is turned back into the cavity of the 
skull and the gaze is directed between the eyebrows, that 
is Khecharimudra. 

^ xr ij^f gpT Fpn ^<=ncH4' y^Hd i 

^T ^T TTjft ^RT 4r^5°l^ : ^ ^TFTd" II 24 

Mudras 69 

Loss of consciousness, hunger, thirst, sloth, sickness, 
decrepitude, and death do not arise, and the yogi obtains 
the body of a god. 

^T ^ fe^^TT^t ^m ^ fW- II 25 

Fire does not burn the body, the winds do not dry it out, 
water does not wet it, and a snake cannot bite it. 

c^meJci^^j) t^HT ^HM^H II 26 

The body becomes beautiful and samadhi is sure to arise. 
When it comes into contact with the aperture of the skull, 
the tongue reaches a liquid. 

3TT^| ^ c^JT mt ddftd?t^H^H II 27 
H^ldld ^ $tT ^te^T^T ^ I 
3JSTTT** ^ ^tm ^TT^t ^h!<^H ii 28 

Each day a blissful sensation arises from the various 
flavors. At first the fluid on the tongue is salty and brackish, 
then bitter and sharp, then like fresh butter, ghee, milk, 
curd, buttermilk, honey, grape juice, and nectar. 

70 *W 

The sun dwells at the root of the navel, and the moon at 
the root of the palate. The sun consumes the nectar of 
immortality and thus man is held in the sway of death. 

fcmildcbi) t^J *T#F^T ^ftf^TT II 30 

Put the sun up and bring the moon down. This Viparita- 
karani mudra is concealed in all the tantras. 

*rtft farsr ^ftf^ ^t^^ united: i 

Carefully place the head and both hands on the ground, 
raise the feet, and remain steady. This is considered to be 

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James Mallinson is a graduate of Eton and Oxford, 
holds a master's from the School of Oriental and African 
Studies, University of London, and returned to Oxford 
University for his doctorate. He has also spent years in 
India, living amongst the yogis. 

Santosha Vanessa Bouchard, the woman in the 
photographs, is a lifelong practitioner of Yoga. 
She inspires her students through her love of Yoga. 
Michael L. Rixson has been a professional photographer 
since 1983 and a practitioner of Yoga since 1997. is dedicated to publishing excellent and 
affordable books about Yoga. It is completely indepen- 
dent of any commercial, governmental, educational, or 
religious institutions. 


i on i iGr-u^ i<m *-i*i- oi<^i n<-M mi ^hic^si ^o-<m"i-iq^ii i i^yi-nn s4mn- , <i-n- , m«i*^oi 
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pift ^Fft^ ^^RTT^T: II *ft 3TTf^-^T«TPT ^T: 3R?T rT^T ^R dMf^KI ^-*JFT-f^IT I 1 

II ^F^TT 5Rp 

rf^FTT I ^5 

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RST-3TF2IT: fo 
* II WT *ft-' 

^t: Srf^Rtft 1 
qi^T: II 13-f? 

^HdlMJ^S- 1 


Visualize This 

JLhe yogi should visualize a sublime ocean of 
nectar in his heart, with an island of jewels in its 
middle whose sand is made of gemstones. In every 
direction there are kadamba trees with abundant 
flowers. Bees and cuckoos buzz and call there. 
He should steady himself and visualize a great 
jeweled pavilion..." 

This definitive edition of the most encyclopedic 
root text of Hatha Yoga contains a new introduc- 
tion, the original Sanskrit, a new English trans- 
lation, and photographs of the asanas and mudras. 

"Smooth and accurate, this translation of the 
Gheranda Samhita is a very welcome addition to 
recent work on Yoga." 

— George Cardona, University of Pennsylvania, 
Author of Panini: His Work and Its Traditions 

%^JT 3TfeSR 

rR\y'HI<d: II 

4)PlHI I ^c|< 



F^TT sf|-q?T-*srF?r TPT-qFT^3MHdlHJ ^-y^fM-^iH^r WWKIH: <%H\4><: II 1 

^g^rr^r: ii *f 

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